Laura and I were out earlier this evening at the Beer Garden drinking up a storm with friends, so I just finished watching the presidental debate on DVR. I found both candidates to be repetitive, continually falling back on the same arguments, statistics, and turns of phrase to defend their positions. I found both candidates to be inconsistent in the messages they delivered. I found the focus on the issue of nuclear proliferation ... an interesting choice at best.
However, I feel immensely better in the aftermath of the debate. For all that John Kerry is far from a perfect candidate, he demonstrated tonight that he has passion, intelligence, and poise. He rarely fumbled for words or presented anything less than a calm demeanor. While the President spoke, Kerry scribbled notes and seemed intent. His command of foreign policy issues was impressive, and he said the thing we need to understand as a people: changing your stance when new facts come to light contradicting is not wrong but necessary.
George Bush, on the other hand, looked impatient, distracted, and/or petulant during Kerry's remarks. One early shot (an angle I noted was not shown again during the debate) showed Bush tapping his leg nervously while he spoke. He frequently lost the thread of his thoughts, he repeated himself far more than Kerry did, he seemed entirely ill at ease, and most of his arguments added up to little better than "No, you're wrong."
There was no knockout punch, no moment of sudden insight or victory. But having seen this debate, I feel better about the the country's prospects in November. I'm sure there are still plenty of ways it can all go wrong, but tonight I feel something I'm not used to: hope.